Johnny from Heist-op-den-Berg? Johnny Heist? Some names are so wonderful you can't make them up. You just seize upon them with glee. In some of my books, the names of characters are allusions to other works of literature that reverberate in theme with the themes of my work. In other cases, character names are chosen with a more Dickensian purpose, to signify character traits. For instance, consider Tom Vanadium in FROM THE CORNER OF HIS EYE. Vanadium is a rare element that is added to steel to toughen it and increase its shock resistance. It perfectly characterizes Tom's toughness, resilience, and steeliness of fine moral purpose. Shepherd, the autistic young man in BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON, by the very nature of his problems and his needs, leads his brother through a life of purpose, responsibility, and meaning, and therefore is to him a kind of shepherd, bringing him along the right path. In my experience, characters names become memorable-and feel real-when they are not taken from the phone book but actually grow from their nature and their story purposes. Yes, this is the opposite of real life, in which we have our names before we develop character; but fiction is not reality, merely an interpretation of it.
Question: Several people in my office read your books and love them. Where do the ideas for your books come from and doesn't it get harder to come up with them as time goes by? Do you feel that as you have gotten older your writing style has changed? ODD THOMAS (loved it) seems a lot different than some of your first books. Donna, N. Wilksboro, NC
Actually, the older I've gotten, the faster the ideas have come and the better they seem to be. I think this is partly a consequence of how much time I've spent at the keyboard all these years. Practice improves a pianist, as well-although a thousand years of daily lessons would not have gotten me past "Chopsticks." Furthermore, the imagination seems to be like a muscle, responding to exercise. As to my changing style: If it didn't change over all these years, I would consider myself an abject failure. The English language is exquisitely beautiful and offers the writer infinite possibilities for what I'll call "lyrical clarity" that, while entertaining, can touch the heart and challenge the mind of the reader. In addition, life is so complex and so mysterious that story possibilities and themes, like the stars in the universe, outnumber the grains of sand on all of Earth's beaches. I wouldn't want to tell the same detective stories or haunted-house stories or gunslinger-comes-into-town stories over and over when the human experience offers so much rich material to inspire fiction. At my favorite restaurants, however, I order the same few favorite dishes over and over!
Question: You have a huge fan base here in the UK. I know that you do not like flying; however, do you plan to visit the UK for work or pleasure? Mark, Bournemouth, England
My wife and I would love nothing better than to come to England for both work and pleasure. We have planned it twice, and twice events beyond our control have terminated the plans on the brink of the trip. (London police, relieved, went into immediate stand-down.) We will get there one day, when I have gotten ahead of my deadlines and Fate allows.